The human cornea contains 13.6 percent of collagen. Pig skin happens to be rich in collagen, cheap, and convenient to use. The researchers isolated collagen molecules from pig skin and turned them into medical-grade collagen, which was then made into a 5 percent collagen solution. They then used a new vacuum evaporation technique to increase the collagen content to 12–18 percent, close to the 13.6 percent collagen content of the human cornea.
BPCDX: Cheap, Easy to Implant, Long Storage LifeThe BPCDX synthetic cornea not only has the advantages of easy access and low cost, it also has a storage life of up to two years, which is convenient for people in areas with poor medical facilities.
In addition, the implantation procedure is a minimally invasive surgery. Instead of removing the patient's cornea, a laser can be used to make a small, precise incision in the cornea and insert BPCDX, allowing BPCDX to slowly repair the original cornea. Because the incision is very small, no sutures are needed.
Experts selected 20 visually impaired patients in Iran and India, 14 of whom were diagnosed as completely blind before surgery. However, after surgeons implanted BPCDX, 19 patients regained vision to some extent, and three of them even regained perfect 20:20 vision. No adverse events occurred to them in the two years after surgery.
Neil Lagali, a professor of experimental ophthalmology at Sweden's Linkoping University and a lead author of the study, said this new invention is revolutionary for people with keratoconus, a corneal disease that is a common reason for corneal transplants. However, it doesn't mean it will work for all corneal diseases because the current transplant experiments only focus on a specific part of the cornea.
The research team plans to experiment with larger groups of patients, in hopes of eventually developing a complete surgical procedure as well as obtaining certification from medical authorities.